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September 2016

News In Brief

  • Nearly 22 percent of renters in the Seattle metro area have the credit scores and incomes to buy, ranking Seattle fifth on a new Zillow list of markets with the highest share of renters who are qualified to buy. San Jose and San Francisco rank first and second, respectively, followed by San Diego and Los Angeles. That more qualified homebuyers are choosing to continue renting increases competition for apartments, hurting lower-income households the most. To make its list, Zillow analyzed the financial qualifications that people reported to the company's "Renter Profile" feature. It's for prospective tenants looking to grab the attention of landlords. Users submit their incomes and credit scores along with other information, including a statement of why they would be good tenants. Zillow also looked at regional median rental and home values. In general, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal, markets with lower homeownership rates have higher proportions of renters with both strong credit and high incomes. Even when controlling for the homeownership rate, booming markets closely associated with the tech industry tend to have exceptionally high proportions of renters who could qualify for mortgages.

  • The Washington State Legislature funded a portion of the I-405 Renton to Bellevue project. The project will add new capacity to create a two-lane express toll system between SR 167 in Renton and NE 6th Street in Bellevue. You can learn more about the project at two upcoming open houses: Wednesday, September 7, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Bellevue City Hall; Tuesday, September 13, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Renton High School.

  • Size matters, especially in housing, but preferences can change quickly, and that is the case today, according to a report by CNBC. Small is happening in a big way. For the first time since the recession, home size is shrinking. Median single-family square floor area fell from the first to the second quarter of this year by 73 feet, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and U.S. Census data. That may not sound like a lot, but it is a clear reversal in the trend of builders focusing on the higher-end buyer. An increase in home size post-recession is normal, historically, as credit tightens and more wealthy buyers with more cash and better credit, rule the market. As with everything else in this unique housing cycle, however, the trend this time is more profound.

    Financing is also playing a big role in home size, even out in the suburbs. Mortgage underwriting, especially for government-insured loans, is still tight and the bigger the loan size, the tougher it is to qualify. Preference also plays a role, as younger Americans seem to be drawn to smaller, simpler living. The tiny house trend has been growing exponentially, as technology allows people to trick out small spaces with big amenities. Micro-apartments are also seeing big demand. And millennials, too, are far more cautious with their finances, having grown up in one of the worst financial crises in history. They don't seem to crave size as much as they do a smart, high-functioning, environmentally friendly home. In other words, bigger isn't necessarily better.

  • The MasterBuilders of King and Snohomish Counties will host a free Housing Summit to address Puget Sound's Housing Affordability Crisis. The event is on September 15th, from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Meydenbauer Center. Featured speakers include: Governor Jay Inslee, Matthew Gardner, John DesCamp and Gordon McHenry, Jr. A panel discussion with Senator Joe Fain, Representative Larry Springer, and Peter Orser is included. Register to attend.